Hidcote Manor is a 10-acre garden in Gloucestershire that pleases almost everybody and that seems to me one of the best gardens of England. It is fairly old (1907) and this may be the place to say it's baloney that the great gardens of England are marvelous because they've had centuries to develop.
The only thing you get from a garden more than 30 years old is fine trees -- admittedly, a great advantage, since you can hardly raise a superb oak or cedar in less than a century and a half. But apart from that, a garden 30 or 40 years of age is old, and probably nearing its decline.
Anyway, today we shall traipse about Hidcote just listing some of the plants, because I notice American visitors go to England and start raving about the fine gardens, then completely ignore in their own gardens the very plants that give the effects they so much admire.
First, the roses. Hidcote is divided into a dozen or so smaller gardens, usually enclosed by high hedges, that flow into each other as you walk, but which are often distinct in character. Some are jammed with flowers, others have few blooms at all; some are a riot of color, others green.
The National Trust, which owns the property, publishes a booklet listing hundreds of things they grow in these gardens, and the roses are worth noticing, because a lot of them are out of date and "superseded," and so are dozens of other plants at Hidcote. So you do well to ask yourself why Hidcote is possibly the most famous garden of this century. Anyhow, here are the roses:
Francois Juranville, Violette, Gloire de Dijon, Reve d'Or, Lawrence Johnston, Felicia, Buff Beauty, Vanity, Lavender Pinocchio, Magenta, Queen Elizabeth, Texas Centennial, Frau Karl Druschki, Natalie Nypels, News, and the wild Rosa rubrifolia.
Gruss an Aachen, Paul's Himalayan Rambler, several floribundas not thought worth listing, Golden Wings, Penelope, The Fairy, Cupid, R. virginiana plena, Fruhlingsgold, Iceberg, Bobbie James, R. pimpinellifolia, Belle Poitevine, Frau Dagmar Hastrup, Scabrosa, Rugosa alba, and Francis E. Lester.
Blanc Double de Coubert, Cornelia, Roseraie de l'Hay, R. highdownensis, Rosa Mundi, Nevada, R. setipoda, Aimee Vibert, Blush Rambler, Blairii No. 1 and Blairii No. 2.
Apart from these you will find in the kitchen garden a lot of the old gallicas and albas and centifolias and damasks, too many to be thought worth listing.
Most of the roses mentioned are relatively famous roses, whether the average American rose grower ever heard of them or not, but the main point is that at Hidcote they could have any roses in the world they wanted, and these are the ones they grow.
They may not be generally known to most people, but the reason they are grown at Hidcote, in preference to a lot of the roses that are well-known in America, is that they are pretty distinct. Some of them are thought extremely beautiful (such as 'Gloire de Dijon') while others (such as 'Bobbie James') are useful for growing into evergreen oaks. There is tremendous variety among them, and you will notice the heavy use of hybrid musks such as 'Buff Beauty,' and of rugosa hybrids such as 'Roseraie de l'Hay.'
That is simply because they make fine bushes smothered in bloom, though the individual flowers would not attract notice at a rose show for exhibition blooms. But I do not know why, when Americans admire the roses of Hidcote, they come home and instead of planting the roses of Hidcote, go to the nearest garden center and get whatever is sitting around. Then they wonder why they do not get the same effect as that given by the roses at Hidcote.
There is nothing wrong with the hybrid teas and floribundas of our garden centers -- most of them are splendid things. But they are not going to to racing up into oaks or fan out in great masses on, and over, walls, or perfume the fall air with tremendous basketball-size clusters of bloom like 'Penelope.'
So one lesson of Hidcote, even with plants as obvious as roses, is to use the plant for its value as a plant -- its total look and total performance -- rather than for the individual flower.
A flower grown all over the place at Hidcote is the blue poppy or Meconopsis. There are a lot of kinds, some of them yellow and some tawny madder, but the ones everybody wants are blue. The color changes a bit as the buds develop to their ultramarine climax. We do not grow them here. Everybody knows they will not take our hot summer nights when the temperature remains above 80 degrees.
But when you think of it, how many people here have ever even attempted the blue poppies? I can remember when "everybody knew" you could not grow azaleas here, though it has turned out finally that Washington azaleas are probably more conspicuous than any other shrub grown in our gardens. They almost run riot among us, yet once they were thought too difficult to grow in our climate.
Before we say we cannot grow the meconopses -- after all, there is no particular reason Himalayan plants should do well in Gloucestershire, some of them -- maybe we should try them from seed a few hundred times. We might be as surprised as we were with azaleas.
If it's all right with you, let's continue next week with some of the other notable plants of Hidcote and how they are used.